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The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000 (Penguin History of Europe (Viking))
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The narrative sections dealing with the political history of the kingdom especially have an impressive number of indecipherable and hard-to remember names forcing the reader to slow down. The narratives are the worst part of this book reading almost like an encyclopedia article. Part of this is no doubt due to the bared down nature of the sources. Fortunately the chapters are reasonably short and the book will soon pass on to better topics. The author is at his best when describing trends or social conditions. Here he really shines and you can feel something of what it was like to live in these societies. Many of his choices of quotes are perfect, giving an idea of the feel of the society he's describing. The first Roman quote is probably the best. It comes from a children's Greek-Latin Primer and deals with Roman justice which was clearly a particularly chilling affair. The emphasis is always on discovering what changed and what caused these changes, as well as determining what made one culture different from another.Read more ›
It's for this reason that I strongly disagree with the reviews complaining that this book has too many details, and should not have been marketed to a general audience. The many details are not the intended "takeaway" of this book. Rather, Wickham presents us with such rich anecdotes so that long after the names and events vanish from memory, readers will be left with a deep (and accurate) feel for post-Roman culture, society, and government. Given how shallow (and inaccurate) my feel for post-Roman Europe was before reading Wickham's book, I consider his book extremely effective.
On the dust jacket, a reviewer describes Wickham's writing as "pointillist." I think this description is apt. As with pointillist paintings, this work's intent can only be comprehended after you take a step back from the anecdotes. Wickham's prose is only difficult if you get too worried about remembering that Sidonius Apollinaris was so-and-so's son-in-law, lived in Clermont in the 5th century, etc. General readers need not worry about the details - Just keep on reading, and be confident that you will finish the book with a different understanding of 400-1000 AD than when you started.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is not for the casual fan of history, the density of facts and research per page is stunning. As well, the concepts presented are definitely advanced and nuanced. Read morePublished 4 months ago by GFX
The author overwhelmed this reader with a vast array of data in not all that interesting a manner. A book, perhaps, more suited to a college course. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Dennis Dean
Interesting, though biased book. With respect to the character of so called barbarian invasions call my attention the zero reference of the author to the very first historian, Hans... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Fernando Villegas
It seems a lot of people can't get past how absolutely -dense- with information this book is. At 688 pages, it feels like an essay from one of those 1000+ page New Cambridge tomes... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Jack H Chapman
Where was the editor, here? This second volume was recommended to me by reading the first volume -- a superb survey by Simon Price. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Joseph P. Nichols
... boy was this a slog! The book could easily have been cut by 25% with no significant loss of content. Recommended, but prepare for a battle.Published 10 months ago by Stan Mark Kaplan
PACKED! Centuries of detail packed into 600+ pages, an informative though not a fun read. Used as the main reference text by a Yale professor re. that era.Published 11 months ago by Pursuingknowledgeandperspectives
A great analysis of why the dark ages weren't nearly as dark and the great debt the world owes to those early Europeans who maintained the wealth of culture that was rome and... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Alma Jeanne Carman